Is Cannabis an Adaptogen?

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The definition of "adaptogen" is a bit nebulous and I would know because I penned this entire feature on the term. It originally traces back to a pharmacologist named Nikolai Lazarev who first used it in 1947. He stated that an adaptogen refers to any substance that theoretically “adapts” to what your body needs and helps protect against various stressors. Simply put, adaptogen fanatics tend to be pretty obsessed with achieving homeostasis, or balance in the body. As it turns out, that's precisely what many people cite as a primary benefit of cannabis. But is cannabis—specifically compounds like CBD, CBN, and THC—adaptogenic too?

So, Is Cannabis an Adaptogen?

Some believe that adaptogens continually restore the body's natural balance by slowing systems down when they’re overheating and speeding them up when they’re sluggish. Some, such as the renowned ashwaghanda root, can even calm and energize simultaneously, according to its proponents. (Maybe that's why I love to exercise with some sativa?)

Likewise, there are some who categorize cannabis—specifically the compounds in the cannabis plant known as cannabinoids, like CBD and THC—as adaptogens. Take ethnobotanist Chris Kilham, who told Sensi Magazine that "cannabinoids regulate the cannabinoid system, and the cannabinoid system is a master regulating system of systems. That implies all the balancing and harmonizing activities of an adaptogen."

There's an argument to be made that since cannabis' effects on an individual vary based on the plant's interactions with your constantly in-flux body chemistry and personality, it is, therefore, an adaptogen. Consider how two people can react extremely differently to the same strand of cannabis.

However, others disagree. That camp classifies cannabis as plant-based medicine, but not necessarily an adaptogenic one, because its therapeutics belong to the doctor. Adaptogens, on the other hand, are often self-administered. (I'm adding a few drops of Anima Mundi Herbals Cerebrum Elixir to my coffee as we speak for a boost in smarts.)

But since cannabis can be self-administered legally in certain U.S. States (and Washington, D.C.), it's clear that cannabis hasn't quite been classified one way or the other—yet. If the federal laws around cannabis change, though, perhaps its healing powers will start to permeate health advocates and physicians alike.

Rachel is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She writes about beauty + wellness for The Wall Street Journal, The Business of Fashion, Racked, Well+Good, SELF, Allure, Shape, Glamour, and Teen Vogue. And swears by a good sativa to plow through her assignments.